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Cardiff scientists discover cancer-fighting compound

Credit: Britta Pedersen/DPA/PA Images

Cardiff University says scientists have developed a new anti-cancer stem cell agent capable of targeting aggressive tumour forming cells common to breast, pancreas, colon and prostate cancers.

The new OH14 compound has been licensed by Tiziana Life Sciences, a British-based pharmaceutical company.

It will now undergo further development before undergoing clinical trials. Researchers say studies have shown it to be effective in eliminating a number of different kinds of cancers cells, including cancer stem cells from breast cancer patients.

The breakthrough comes almost exactly a year after the same research team announced that they had discovered a molecule capable of reversing the spread of malignant breast cancer.

Our computer aided drug screening process has now identified two new classes of anti-cancer agents, specifically targeting two distinct and novel mechanisms underpinning cancer.

– Dr Andrea Brancale, Cardiff University’s School of Pharmacy


Research finds number of bird strikes 'increasing'

Research by academics at Swansea University shows collisions between birds and buildings, power lines, wind farms and aircraft are increasing.

It suggests better management of the increasingly crowded airspace is needed to help animal conservation and reduce the human and monetary cost associated with collisions.

A paper by Professor Rory Wilson and Doctor Emily Shepherd from the Department of Biosciences with Sergio Lambertucci of the National University of Comahue, Argentina, has been published in the journal Science.

Credit: Niall Carson/PA Archive/PA Images

The study says bird strikes generally happen within 100 metres of the ground, where most flying animals operate and human activity is concentrated.

It says this is also where the majority of bird- aircraft collisions occur, which have led to more than 200 people being killed, thousands of aircraft being damaged, and which costs more than $900 million a year in the USA alone.

The research team also says there are strong arguments for establishing airspace reserves in aerial wildlife hotspots and temporary reserves could be introduced to protect birds when they migrate while permanent ones could be used could protect daily animal movements.

It is interesting to note that more is known about the routes of migrating animal that cross continents than those taken by animals in parks or towns.

But detailed data on how animals use space is now needed which can help guide local planning decisions, building designs and measures that protect our wildlife.

– Professor Rory Wilson

Computer programme 'aids rescue effort'

A seismic graph. Credit: Ralf Hirschberger/DPA/PA Images

Cardiff University says experts are helping the immediate rescue efforts in Nepal by providing a real-time assessment of the risk of more landslides after Saturday’s earthquake.

Dr Robert Parker and his team from the University’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences have developed a computer program calleds ShakeSlide.

The University says organisations like The World Bank and MapAction are now collaborating with Dr Parker directly, working alongside the disaster assessment teams.

The model predictions provide a rapid, first-order assessment of earthquake-triggered landslide hazards, and are currently being used to guide efforts to map landslide damage caused by Saturday’s earthquake in Nepal.

– Dr Robert Parker, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences

Potential root cause of asthma found

Credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Cardiff University scientists have identified the potential root cause of asthma and an existing drug that offers a new treatment.

Researchers, working in collaboration with scientists at King’s College London and the Mayo Clinic (USA), discovered a previously unproven role of a protein (CaSR) in the disease which affects 300 million people worldwide.

The findings have been published in a paper for the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The paper highlights how a class of drugs known as calcilytics manipulate CaSR to reverse all the symptoms of asthma.

Calcilytics were first created to treat the bone disease osteoporosis.

Our findings are incredibly exciting. For the first time we have found a link between airways inflammation, which can be caused by.... allergens, cigarette smoke and car fumes, and airways twitchiness in allergic asthma.

– Professor Daniela Riccardi, Cardiff University School of Biosciences

Asthma UK helped fund the research.

This hugely exciting discovery enables us, for the first time, to tackle the underlying causes of asthma symptoms. Five per cent of people with asthma don’t respond to current treatments so research breakthroughs could be life changing for hundreds of thousands of people.

– Dr Samantha Walker, Director of Research and Policy at Asthma UK


Clear skies over Wales for view of shooting stars

Clear skies over Wales tonight are likely to provide a perfect celestial stage for the Lyrid meteor shower across much of the UK.

On average 15 to 20 of the shooting stars can be seen an hour, though an especially active Lyrid shower produced around 90 an hour in 1982.

Credit: PA

The meteors, sand-like particles shed by Comet Thatcher, leave luminous streaks across the sky as they burn up in the atmosphere.

They are most active in the night sky between April 16 and 25, peaking tonight and tomorrow.

The Royal Observatory Greenwich's top tips for watching the meteor shower:

  • The best place to see the Lyrids is to find an open field where you can see the whole of the night sky
  • The best time is a few hours after midnight where you can expect to see most of the bright streaks in the early hours of the morning
  • Scan the sky over the course of the night as the meteors can pop out from any direction

Cardiff research on graphene ‘revolutionary’ for industry

Credit: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press/PA Images

Tests on graphene by a Cardiff University researcher could open up global exploitation of the lightweight ‘wonder’ material.

Graphene is a form of carbon and forms an atomic-scale lattice. It is extremely strong and conducts heat and electricity efficiently. It is used in products from computer chips to super-light aircraft.

But its development has been held back commercially by the cost and difficulty of large-scale production.

Now research by Dr David Morgan, of Cardiff Catalysis Institute, has developed methods of testing and analysing changes in the material.

Dr Morgan has worked alongside South Wales company Perpetuus to test the characteristics of graphene on an industrial scale – a ‘world-first’ for the University.

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first analysis of its kind from raw material to final use of the processed material. The development of graphene and related materials is an exciting and ever-expanding field.

– Dr David Morgan, Surface Analysis Manager at Cardiff Catalysis Institute

Herschel 'finds hundreds of young galaxy candidates'

Planck's view of the universe. Credit: ESA, The Planck Collaberation

Scientists, using data from an instrument built with expertise from Cardiff University, say they have discovered what could be the forerunners of the galaxies we see today.

The Herschel Space Observatory, which carries the SPIRE instrument, was used to pinpoint objects in the distant universe, seen at a time when it was only 3 billion years old (the universe is now almost 14 billion years old).

It was given its targets (the black spots in the large image above) by the Planck Space Observatory.

By imaging the young galaxies scientists hope to better understand their evolution into those we see today including our own Milky Way which now has 100 billion stars.

Herschel was launched in May 2009. Credit: ESA - C. Carreau

Cardiff University's Astronomy Instrumentation Group was involved in the design of SPIRE. Members of the School of Physics and Astronomy are analysing and interpreting the data from the instrument.

Herschel stopped operating in 2013 when its coolant was exhausted. But the data it sent back could take several years to interpret.

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